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BACK TO BASICS - ISO QUALITY

Updated: Jan 4

Whether it goes by the name quality assurance, quality system, total quality management or quality management… all of these refer to a system of managing quality.


There are many different systems for managing quality. We have heard of lean manufacturing, TQM and Six Sigma, for example. There are industry specific systems for automotive, medical, food, information technology and even aerospace. Different countries have different standards. Where my knowledge lies is in ISO Quality Standards.


The acronym ‘ISO’ stands is translated from its French origins and stands for ‘International Organisation for Standardisation’. The Organisation is based in Geneva, Switzerland and was founded in 1947. Since that time, they have published over 22,000 international standards covering all aspects of business.


ISO Standards are process Standards, not product Standards. We will focus on the three best known Standards worldwide, which are:


ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems;

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems; and

ISO 45001 Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems.


When implemented together, the above three systems are known as an Integrated Management System (IMS); a streamlined approach to managing three Standards as part of one system.


So let’s look at each of the above three Standards in a little more detail…


ISO 9001 is a quality standard. It requires that processes effectively manage processes affecting the quality of services and products to satisfy customer requirements and legal obligations.


ISO 14001 manages processes affecting the impact of the business activities on the environment; specifically what the organisation does to minimise harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities.


ISO 45001 is a safety management system to ensure continual improvements in OHS performance and fulfilment of legal requirements. Its focus is enabling a safe and healthy workplace by preventing work related injury and illness.


The basic structure of an ISO Standard is:


Context of the Organisation

Leadership

Planning

Support

Operation

Performance Evaluation

Improvements


The cornerstones of Standards are:


Leadership commitment

Management of risks and opportunities

Specific documented information to be retained as evidence


The goals of a quality management system (QMS) are centric around customer satisfaction and stakeholder engagement, and of course continuous improvement. They take into account the interested parties which may affect, or be affected by quality. So, for example with ISO 14001, a ‘cradle to grave’ approach is taken in terms of the manufacturing, procurement, usage and disposal of products that an organisation might use – so as to meet best practice environmental activities.


The decision as to whether to become certified against a Standard is a business decision. It usually arises due to contractual, regulatory or market requirements and/or to meet customer preferences. Commonly, access to government or large industry tenders may require an organisation to hold at least the ISO 9001 as evidence that quality standards are in place.


By the way, when we speak of systems, we are not talking of the need to implement an actual system that you purchase off the shelf or a customised version. Of course there are many of those products in the market. We’re talking about your business system of managing quality… and this can be a paper based system if that is appropriate to the size and nature of the organisation.


Along with the idea that an expensive ‘system’ has to be implemented, the perception is often that attaining ISO certification is an expensive exercise, and this is not really the case.


The pricing for certification will be based upon the pricing structure of the certifying body, the number of certifications to be obtained, the size and complexity of the business (one location or many and whether manufacturing design is involved) and the numbers of employees. A small business with a few people in one location seeking to attain ISO 9001 certification may afford this from as little as $4000 per year. Naturally, time will need to be dedicated to the setting up and maintaining of the system, and this is where I can assist.


If you have been considering the implementation of a quality management system, yet you are not sure where to start, please feel to contact me at iFreelance. I can carry out a desktop and physical health check and put together a gap analysis of how well your organisation is placed against the relevant Standard(s). We can then agree what specific tasks you would like me to assist you with throughout the journey in readiness to become certified and maintain certification.


Committed to Quality. Committed to You.



Gina Clayton

Owner Consultant – iFreelance


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